In The Know: Bonuses for Oklahoma teachers with national certification may not return

by | February 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that even though lawmakers are looking for ways to finish paying bonuses to teachers who earned National Board Certification, the program may be put on hold or phased out after this year. The Department of Public Safety commissioner said that due to budget cuts, state trooper strength is at its lowest level in 22 years. Governor Fallin will release details of her plan to slash the income tax in today’s State of the State address. In the legislative session beginning today, tax cuts will be in competition with potentially costly plans to reform prisons, rebuild the state foster care program under a court settlement, improve college graduation rates, and improve state roads. Find more on the tax debate at OK Policy’s tax reform information page.

Terri White, the head of Oklahoma’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, will also serve as interim chief of DHS while the state conducts a national search to replace outgoing Director Howard Hendrick. OETA’s executive director is disputing a lawmaker’s claim that 17 states have quit funding public television without losing their PBS signal. The loss of 2,100 jobs at the Tulsa American Airlines facility is likely to ripple through the area economy.

After resolving court battles with affected landowners, the Keystone pipeline is ready to come through Oklahoma. The FBI created a fake Georgia company in 2008 so an agent could go undercover to secretly investigate the Oklahoma Legislature for corruption. Sen. Shortey is proposing several measures that would dismantle Oklahoma’s judicial branch of government. Janet Pearson writes about the need to invest in programs addressing a national epidemic of child abuse.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s national rank for state and local taxes paid as a percentage of personal income. In today’s Policy Note, President Obama is proposing performance-based funding for colleges and universities to rewards schools that keep tuition low.

continue reading In The Know: Bonuses for Oklahoma teachers with national certification may not return

The Weekly Wonk – February 3rd, 2012

by | February 3rd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy and the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) co-released the 2012 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, which showed that more than one in four Oklahoma households are “asset poor,” meaning they have little or no financial cushion to rely on in an emergency.  The Tulsa World and the Oklahoman covered Oklahoma’s Scorecard results in depth.

We pointed out that if legislators make the choice to prioritize tax cuts, they cannot pretend to be blameless when funds aren’t available for crucial services.  We hosted a debate about whether or not to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, featuring Jessica Hawkins, the Director of Prevention Services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and former state Senator Ed Long.

Finally this week, the Associated Press quoted us in an article on a regional trend of GOP action to axe state income taxes. The Tulsa World presented a summary of our issue brief defending the income tax. The Journal Record cited our work on worsening poverty in Oklahoma and legislative proposals that would make it even harder to be poor. The OK Policy Blog featured a short video about ‘community schools,’ a comprehensive approach to education that makes the school the hub of the community.

Numbers of the Day

  • $136 – Average tax increase on elderly Oklahoma couples with $35,000 in income under a legislative proposal to eliminate a slate of broad-based tax credits and exemptions.
  • 8,100 – Number of manufacturing jobs added in Oklahoma from January to December of 2011, up 8.4 percent for the year.
  • 178, 020 – Number of Oklahoma children under age 6 who need daily child care during the week because their primary caregiver/s participate in the labor force, 2009
  • 6,592 – Number of Oklahomans who tested for their GED in 2009; 70.1 percent received their GED, just above the average national pass rate of 69.4 percent.
  • 11th – Oklahoma’s rank among the states in percentage of households with no computer in their home, 2010

In The Know, Policy Notes

 

In The Know: Gov. Fallin proposes eliminating income tax

by | February 3rd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

 Gov. Mary Fallin told reporters that details of her plan to gradually eliminate the income tax in Oklahoma would be announced on Monday.  OK Policy explained why repealing or reducing the state income tax is ill-advised.  Anticipated revenue from taxes on natural gas production will be much lower-than-expected this year due to extremely low natural gas prices.

National employment grew at the fastest pace in nine months, adding 243,000 jobs and bringing the unemployment rate to a near three-year low.  Over a dozen school districts in eastern Oklahoma met with lawmakers to discuss abandoning the new high-stakes graduation tests.  The OK Policy Blog hosts a short video about ‘community schools,’ a comprehensive approach to education that makes the school the hub of the community.

The governor and legislative leadership support a bond issue to pay for $140 million in repairs to the century-old State Capitol.  Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele supports requiring the legislature to be subject to the Open Records and Open Meetings Act.  In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg Businessweek reports on falling premiums for Medicare Advantage, a private health insurance option for Medicare beneficiaries.  Today’s Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank among the states in percentage of households with no computer in their home.

continue reading In The Know: Gov. Fallin proposes eliminating income tax

Watch This: What is a 'Community School'?

by | February 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Education, Watch This | Comments (0)

At a time when seemingly endless budget cuts are squeezing our public schools to the breaking point, the Coalition for Community Schools continues to advance a rich and comprehensive approach to education.  Their vision is one in which schools are not just places for kids to learn during the school-week, but also community centers open to everyone – all day, every day – making the school the hub of the community.  If you’re having a hard time envisioning how a ‘community school’ differs from the norm, watch this short video about Tulsa’s Area Community Schools Initiative (TACSI).  The transformational potential of this approach is hard to miss.

 

View other clips from OKPolicy’s “Watch This’ video series:

What is an IDA?

Elderly parole

Long term unemployment, 1967-2011

Packed Oklahoma prisons, rising costs

In The Know: Oklahoma tax refunds for the unbanked issued on MasterCard debit cards

by | February 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma law now requires that state tax refunds be issued electronically, so taxpayers without a bank account must accept their refund on a MasterCard debit card with associated fees.  Oklahoma House Democrats say jobs, education, transportation, and natural resources top their agenda for 2012.  The Norman Transcript explains why a bill that gives cities and towns control over tobacco regulations is needed to turn the corner on the state’s deteriorating health.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a budget request that will give $500,000 to the OU College of Medicine to address a physician shortage.  Stillwater residents expressed concern about services for the state’s poor at a town hall event on the state budget.

The OK Policy Blog hosts a debate about whether or not to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, featuring the Director of Prevention Services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Jessica Hawkins and former state Senator Ed Long.  The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans who tested for their GED in 2009.  In today’s Policy Note, the Shriver Center examines the trend of states issuing public benefits through bankcards and the implications of card fees for low-income people. 

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma tax refunds for the unbanked issued on MasterCard debit cards

The pseudoephedrine debate: Available with or without a prescription?

by | February 1st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Healthcare | Comments (4)

The question of whether to require a prescription for the purchase of pseudoephedrine (the main ingredient in medications such as Sudafed) as a means to help combat the production of methamphetamine,  promises to be one of the  hotly contested issues of the 2012 legislative session. We invited a supporter and an opponent of the proposal to present their sides of the debate.

Jessica Hawkins: Time to say ‘enough is enough’

Jessica Hawkins is the Director of Prevention Services for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which funds a network of Regional Prevention Coordinators providing community-based prevention services to all 77 Oklahoma counties. 

Substance abuse and untreated addiction must be a priority for Oklahoma.  It is the underlying cause for many of the negative consequences we are faced with in this state such as crime, incarceration, rising health care costs and broken families…issues that will not go away unless we start investing in the things that impact the root problem.

Want a great example? Methamphetamine.  Everybody knows about meth.  It is in the headlines every day.  If there is a picture that illustrates how drug use impacts us all, then this is it.

continue reading The pseudoephedrine debate: Available with or without a prescription?

In The Know: More than one in four Oklahomans unprepared for financial crisis

by | February 1st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a new report ranks Oklahoma 33rd in the nation in the ability of residents to build wealth and fend off poverty. The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, co-released by OK Policy and the Corporation for Enterprise Development, shows that while we do well on levels of homeownership, we are in the bottom for income poverty, reliance on predatory lenders and subprime credit, and the number of uninsured. The Journal Record [subscriber only] looks at some proposed laws that would make it even harder to be poor in Oklahoma.

Lawmakers speaking at a StateImpact Oklahoma forum in Stillwater raised doubts about cutting the income tax. Class sizes are continuing to rise in Tulsa-area school districts as they struggle to deal with successive state budget cuts over the past few years. Pay increases for judges and district attorneys look unlikely this year, since they are tied to the salaries of statewide elected officials eager to gain political credit for going without raises.

Oklahoma City is recovering more quickly from the recession than Tulsa, and an economist told the OKC Council that the two cities may be diverging economically. Health Commissioner Terry Cline is proposing a more narrowly focused bill this year in hopes of winning local control of tobacco policies. The OkieBret blog profiled the occupation, religion, and educational backgrounds of Oklahoma’s state legislators.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahoma children under age 6 need daily child care during the week because their primary caregiver/s participate in the labor force. In today’s Policy Note, Demos shows that the pay premium gained by joining the federal workforce is reserved largely for less-skilled workers, and rather than disparaging public sector pay levels, we should embrace them as standards from which the private sector has shamefully deviated over the last three decades.

continue reading In The Know: More than one in four Oklahomans unprepared for financial crisis

In The Know: Task force says foster care reform begins with funding

by | January 31st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the legislature’s Foster Care System Improvement Task Force said reforms need to begin with more funding. The Tulsa World highlights the need for funds to respond to the looming physician shortage. NewsOK discusses several other serious needs that legislators must balance in the coming legislative session. The OK Policy Blog points out that if legislators make the choice to prioritize tax cuts, they cannot pretend to be blameless when funds aren’t available.

A GOP push to reduce or eliminate the income tax is emerging in seven states, but many have doubts. Grover Norquist sent a letter to every member of the Oklahoma Legislature saying that ending any tax expenditures without matching tax cuts would violate an anti-tax pledge.  OK Policy previously discussed a similar dispute with Norquist in which Oklahoma lawmakers rejected his interpretation. Supporters of Oklahoma’s infant motion picture industry are fighting to preserve a $5 million incentive program.

The Oklahoma State Chamber announced its legislative priorities for this year, including more workers’ comp changes, ensuring income tax cuts aren’t replaced by shifting taxes onto businesses, and establishing a health insurance exchange with no federal or state funds. OK Policy previously explained why the window for Oklahoma to build its own exchange and avoid a federal takeover may have already closed.

Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard asked lawmakers to “fiercely resist” a rumored attempt by the State Department of Education to take over a Tulsa high school. The Oklahoma Attorney General is investigating two tribes’ online payday lending operations. Municipalities are upset that they have little say in what the Grand River Dam Authority does, but are responsible for most of its debt.

The Number of the Day is how many manufacturing jobs were added in Oklahoma from January to December of 2011. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute points out that the massive tax cuts propose by GOP presidential candidates don’t square with professed concerns about public debt.

continue reading In The Know: Task force says foster care reform begins with funding

Up a Creek: Scorecard shows over a quarter of Oklahomans unprepared to weather financial crisis

by | January 31st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security | Comments (1)

In Oklahoma, more than one in four households are “asset poor,” meaning they have little or no financial cushion to rely on if unemployment or another emergency leads to a loss of income, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).  Asset poverty is distinct from and broader than income poverty, which measures the amount of money a household receives during the year.  According to the U.S. Census, about one in six Oklahomans were income poor in 2010.  Andrea Levere, president of CFED, highlights asset poverty as a significant barrier to long-term financial stability:

Growing numbers of Americans have almost no savings or other assets to fall back on if they lose their jobs or face a medical crisis.  Without those savings, few will be able to invest in a more economically secure future, including buying a home, saving for their children’s college educations or building a retirement nest egg.

The 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers a comprehensive look at Oklahomans’ ability to build wealth, fend off poverty, and create a more prosperous future. The Scorecard compares states along 52 different measures of how residents fare in five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education.

continue reading Up a Creek: Scorecard shows over a quarter of Oklahomans unprepared to weather financial crisis

The buck stops anywhere but here

by | January 30th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (3)

Rep. Earl Sears

Last week I participated in a StateImpact Oklahoma forum on the state budget with Rep. Earl Sears, the Chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee (R-Bartlesville),  and Sen. Tom Adelson (D-Tulsa).  An audience member asked the legislators what they would do to ensure that more individuals with mental illness were provided treatment in the community rather than in jails and penitentiaries.

Rep. Sears responded by saying that he is very supportive of the work being done by Commissioner Terri White and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to raise awareness about the prevalence and cost of mental illness. In particular, Rep. Sears praised the Department’s ‘Smart on Crime’ initiative‘ that uses evidence-based programs to reduce recidivism and decrease demand for correctional beds. By diverting non-violent offenders into programs such as drug court, mental health court, or other similar programs, Smart on Crime can reduce incarceration and ultimately save substantial tax dollars. The initiative, however, requires an upfront investment estimated at close to $100 million. And, Rep. Sears stated ruefully, we just don’t have $100 million to invest in Smart on Crime.

continue reading The buck stops anywhere but here